Innovation School MDes Design Innovation & Citizenship

Jiawei Wang

“Meaningful, meaningless, meaningful, meaningless, this is the wave that washes through our lives and creates its inherent tension,” Knausgaard writes.

@Jiawei WANG
Broomielaw Agriculture Learning Hub
Rolling Stories in the Cairngorms
Mapping the City

Broomielaw Agriculture Learning Hub

The project explores citizens’ food sovereignty against the structure of Glasgow’s food system and creates an innovative urban agriculture practice that is more accessible to citizens.


After Brexit and the COVID pandemic, the UK’s food system has revealed the vulnerability of its structures and food security is under threat. Guided by the framework of the Glasgow City Food Plan, this project explores the food sovereignty of citizens in Glasgow. Through a mixture of research containing literature, local reports, case studies, culture studies and expert interviews, the challenges of urban agriculture in terms of funding and policy are explored.

The conceptual design prioritises the importance of agricultural skills over seed and land resources. So we need a more accessible grassroots approach to teaching every citizen how to save seeds and grow food. A participatory design method of scenario workshop was used to test the effectiveness and inadequacy of citizens’ co-decision-making, which was incorporated into the final service system. Design outcomes also include paper readings and interactive touchpoints.


Who controls the food system?

The diagram below shows that the monopoly seed companies are at the centre of the system. They further control crop production by cultivating commercial seeds. This both crowds out the market for local seeds and causes damage to the soil. Crops are genetically diverse. That is why we need to protect local seeds, which are genetically determined to be more resistant to risk and better suited to local cultivation. Food sovereignty evolved from “food security” at an international conference in 1996. It puts the people who produce, distribute, and consume food at the centre of food systems and policies, rather than exclusively pursuing the demands of the market.

Cultural studies contain some documentaries and artists’ works, mainly discussing the connection between politics, art and what we eat. The food system should be seen as a collective capacity rather than colonialism and capitalism. During the case studies, it’s worth mentioning the paradox of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. The German artists found that its’ sponsors included several major monopoly seed companies, such as Monsanto. Clearly, capitalism uses the occurrence of disasters to form new demand and productivity.


A semi-structured interview

I had an interesting conversation with David Murphy (pseudonym). He is head of policy at the Soil Association as well as a home grower.  A previous career in political journalism spanning more than two decades has provided him with a comprehensive and in-depth perspective on exploring agricultural policy in Scotland. At the same time, he has been actively engaged in organic farming practice and collaboration in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow. He speaks to farming practitioners, including farmers, small-scale growers, community garden participants and others. In Glasgow, he facilitated the establishment and implementation of the Food for Life programme. This programme has brought more fresh, sustainable, local food onto local school plates.


What kind of urban agriculture do we really need?

Before reflecting on the difficulties of implementing urban agriculture, two concepts need to be introduced.

One is “permanence“. Due to the complexity of ownership, it is difficult to find owners in a short period of time. It leads directly to the problem that projects are not prioritised. Once this land is removed from use or used for commercial development, the project may be at risk of being removed at any time.

Another is “allotments“. Allotments in the UK are protected by various acts of parliament that date back to the early 20th century and the vast majority of allotment sites are located on public land managed by local councils. Allotments are divided into multiple plots and rented at a low annual cost to individuals. While their popularity has ebbed and flowed, allotments are currently in high demand and many sites have long waiting lists, as the survey results on the previous page show.

Either way, the two biggest issues facing urban agriculture practices are finance and policy.

The beginning of 2001: A Space Odyssey shows that man establishes himself through the use of tools. Tools are the ability to use resources better. The prerequisite for using the resources of the seed and the land is the acquisition of skills in agricultural practices. And the more accessible this learning space is to citizens, the more interest and engagement will be raised.


Scenario workshop

The project uses a participatory design approach and aims to involve citizens and all other stakeholders in the planned development of the vacant city sites. At the prototype stage, participation is currently limited to ordinary citizens for testing and improvement. In the future, other stakeholders such as the government, grassroots organisations, land developers, soil experts, activists, urban planners, etc. can be invited to participate in the workshop to find a common vision.

Through scenario development, scenario elaboration, expert interviews, spatial analyses of physical conditions, and a final scenario workshop, the result is co-creation and decision-making by stakeholders. For the hypothetical scenario development, I drew a plan of the target plot and the uses that correspond to reality at this stage, namely Market Garden and Retail & Experience. As for the scenario elaboration, I designed a zine in which the history of the Broomielaw, as well as the current status, were introduced.

Rolling Stories in the Cairngorms

Mapping the City

How we understand the world is how we will advance the revolution of life.

The oldest map, the Babylonian Map of the World, has been unearthed on the banks of the Euphrates near Baghdad. It was on a clay tablet and made in the 6th century BC. A new era of human civilisation opened. In the world today, the potential of mapping is expressed in its relationship with multiple disciplines: art, literature, architecture, science, film, etc. The exploration of maps moved from figurative to abstract, from two-dimensional to three-dimensional. From data mapping, towards a deeper concept: crossing through space and time. Here we discuss the impact of contemporary life on personal experience and the shaping of social space. Mapping outlines its topography. Peter Jackson once said, “Maps of meaning refer to the way we make sense of the world, rendering our geographical experience intelligible, attaching value to the environment and investing the material world with symbolic significance.”

This is a series of photographs of La Semana Santa, which is one of the most important and popular festivals in Spain. The celebration of La Semana Santa is the annual commemoration of the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus. The timing of La Semana Santa is determined by the lunar calendar, which usually runs from the end of March to the beginning of April.

The practice of photo-grouping is an attempt to archive the photographs. The archive, a kind of Foucault’s definition, refers generally to the law of all statements presented in the form of particular events, the system. More importantly, the quality of the archive is not that it is merely a collection of dust from the past; it is more importantly a discursive practice, yet it is not an eternal library, let alone oblivion. Elements are meaningless if they are not integrated in some way.